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Human rights education – more than an educational approach

Gender-based violence is a human rights violation. It can be prevented and addressed using a human rights framework, which human rights education (HRE) can help to explain.

Before starting to work with these activities, it is important to understand the educational approach within which the manual and activities have been developed. The underlying approach to human rights education is based on the approach outlined in Compass – a manual for human rights education with young people46.

Human rights education is about education for change - both at a personal level and at the level of society. It is about developing young people’s competence to be active and responsible citizens who participate in their communities. The educational process should therefore develop knowledge, skills, values and attitudes that are appropriate for positive action on behalf of human rights. In the case of this manual, such positive action concerns chiefly the area of gender-related human rights - for example whenever gender-based violence is concerned.

Compass defines human rights education as:

...educational programmes and activities that focus on promoting equality in human dignity, in conjunction with other programmes such as those promoting intercultural learning, participation and empowerment of minorities47.

A more detailed definition of HRE can be found in the Council of Europe Charter on Education for Democratic Citizenship and Human Rights Education:

… education, training, awareness raising, information, practices and activities which aim, by equipping learners with knowledge, skills and understanding and developing their attitudes and behaviour, to empower learners to contribute to the building and defence of a universal culture of human rights in society, with a view to the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms48.

There are other definitions of human rights education. All such definitions incorporate three important dimensions:


Learning about human rights
For example, knowledge and understanding of human rights, of what they are, and of how they are safeguarded or protected;

Learning through human rights
This dimension recognises that the educational context and the way human rights learning is organised and imparted must be consistent with human rights values (e.g. participation, freedom of thought and expression, etc.). In human rights education, the process of learning is as important as the educational content;

Learning for human rights
Young people need to develop the skills, attitudes and values to be able to apply human rights values in their lives and to take action, alone or with others, to promote and defend human rights.

How can these three dimensions be translated into educational practice with young people?

In the process of human rights education, it is recommended to respect some principles

  • Start from what people already know, from their opinions and experiences. From this base, enable them to search for and discover together new ideas and experiences, and contextualise these in universal human rights;
  • Encourage the active participation of young people in shaping the discussions and the educational content. Support them to learn from each other;
  • Encourage young people to translate their learning into simple but meaningful actions and personal attitudes that demonstrate their rejection of injustice, inequality, and the violation of human rights.